Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spring in Davis

We haven't been in Davis for the glories of Spring for many years. Outside our bedroom we have a huge wisteria bower that is always fully leafed out by the time we get home. When we left in February the vines had tiny brown bumps along them that would eventually turn into clumps of gorgeous purple blossoms. But would we get to see them? No. But thanks to the wonders of technology and the skills of my neighbor Erin I have received a photo of the vines in bloom. We planted these beauties 17 years ago. The one on the right blooms first and is a deeper violet than the other. The right is more a purple-blue shade. At their peak they are alive with the hum of bumble bees doing their job of pollination while dining on luscious wisteria nectar.

More good news from the Davis garden. The Cape Honeysuckle that we thought had died from the heavy frosts we had in December and January seems to be coming back. You can see the tiny tender green shoots at the bottom of the shrub. If they have appeared on all of the plants we can probably salvage them. Rafa was about to tear it all out but it looks, from this photo, that there is some life left. We'll nurse them along over the summer and see if they will ever return to their full blazing beauty.

As for Spring in Cuyutlán, it is gorgeous; clear, sunny, warm with a light breeze. We ate breakfast out on the front balcony, enjoying our last Saturday of relative peace and quiet for two weeks. Things won't be this quiet again until after the 15th of April. We're stocking up on water and beer so we don't have to hassle with deliveries for a couple of weeks. Monday I'll lay in stores at tinagues so we won't have to go to the local super; it will be jammed. Half the population takes Spring break the week before Easter, the other half takes the week after, so things are mobbed for two weeks. But until then it is quiet and serene here at the beach.

Tomorrow begins hora de verano so we will "spring ahead" tonight and once again be two hours ahead of California. Mexico does everything at its own pace.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Music on the malecon

The word was given out at the Wednesday domino meeting that there would be lovely old ranchero music played tonight by a group from Colima. The time? A las nueves. Translation: At nine o'clock. Mexican translation: oh, somewhere around 10:30 or 11. I am afraid I am not going to make it.

The Patient is looking and feeling much better today. The swelling in his face has gone way down. It's true it has pooled in his neck, but the lymph glands appear to be draining more efficiently. He has a bit more color now, thanks to the outdoor work he is doing. And his energy level seems to be up, too. Again tonight he ate a good dinner, including dessert of vanilla ice cream. I'm hoping he will be down to one can of supplement a day before long. He has taken on as a project the re-laying of the bricks in the drying yard. I think next year we will have the bricks taken up and have a cement walkway poured. Much easier. But for now he is happily occupied with this chore. He has gone to bed early tonight since he did not get his afternoon siesta. We went over to Jack's for a swim instead. He didn't swim but I did and it was delightful.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

the gift of chug-a-lug

Most would not think the ability to take swallows consecutively is any big deal. Not sips but swallows. The Patient has not been able to take more than one swallow at a time, resting for perhaps a minute between each one. Tonight he was able to take five -- count 'em, FIVE -- swallows consecutively. We celebrated with high fives, cheers all around and, for him, a piece of See's chocolate candy that he has not been able to eat (or taste) since he received it at Christmas. Another milestone has been reached in his long and winding road to recovery.

and what did you have for breakfast?

I sat down to a luscious big slab of watermelon, the seedless kind, that I bought from the truck of the melon man who drives around town a couple of times a week. Sweet and juicy! I walked up to Baby's market this morning and bought a fresh talera bun. This ambrosial bread looks like a big, puffy English muffin, but it's not sour or coarse. I think it is made with the same ingredients as the more pedestrian boleo. It's just shaped differently and is dusted with flour on top. It is absolute heaven! I'll take a photo of one side-by-side with a boleo so you can see the difference. Would have done that this morning but I was so excited to find one that I fell on it as soon as I got home. Baby does not always have them so it's a special treat.

The town is gearing up for the Semana Santa crowds. A week from now the town will begin to fill up with vacationers, the f-ing outdoor disco right aross the street will crank up making sleep impossible until about 4 AM, and the quiet life of Cuyutlán will be turned into a circus. It will be chaos through Easter Sunday. Then we will have a break of a couple of days after the first wave of revelers goes home. The second wave comes for Pasqua, the week after Easter. The disco will rev up again on Wednesday and go through Saturday. Then it's over. It's really horrible, but it's part of life here so we get through it somehow. Within a few days we have caught up on all that lost sleep, the food, drink and souvenir stalls have all been taken down and left, and the town settles back into it's usual somnolence. Until next year . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wek on the Woad

One of our daughters, I think it was Alex, used this expression as a comment for any roadside disturbance. This afternoon we drove up to Colima to drop off friends at the Ceballos Hotel for their overnight before catching an early plane back to the US. What a lovely, old world place it is, too. High ceilings, wide hallways, lovely large rooms. Their corner room looked out on the central jardin across the street and onto the cathedral in the other direction. The Patient and I have often said we would like to go up to Colima for a couple of days, spend the nights in that hotel, take in the museums and other "kultural" offerings of the capital city. Maybe next year.

Anyway, on our way there was a BIG wek on the woad. It appeared to us that a doble remolque, a truck cab with two big trailers attached, had perhaps taken one of the curves too fast and the rear trailer came loose and oveturned. Meanwhile the cab with the front trailer careened off the road and plowed into the underbrush. The truck had been hauling Cal, a lye-based substance used in cement. Bags of this white powdery stuff were strewn all across the highway. Needless to say traffic was snarled and slowed almost to a stop. This happened some time before we got there as there were cops all over the place. On our way home we could see that everything was still snarled up, although the overturned second trailer had been hauled to the side of the road. Further down the road the police had set up a road block to warn drivers of what was ahead. They're probably still cleaning up.

The other thing we did, aside from ferrying departing Cuyutlán residents, was look for floor tiles. We want to redo the floors next year. The present tile is old, dark, and showing serious wear. It is a clay tile with a thin glaze that has become chipped and badly water stained over the years. We'll go back again when we have more time and energy and visit two or three more tile stores. We'll also drive over to Manzanillo to investigate a couple of tile emporia there. A trip there is always a good excuse for a lovely lunch somewhere along the waterfront.

Monday, March 26, 2007

it's the berries

It has been an unusually cool day here today. I don't think the sun every really came out. Like San Francisco in July or Newport Beach in June. That did not slow anyone down, of course. Just no swimming. And I even wore a shirt over my T-shirt. Beach warmies. Despite that we had a glorious sunset tonight. The reflected pink turned the sea a beautiful wine-dark purple.

At this morning's market there were gorgeous strawberries. These are not your clone-berries, the kind we get in Davis throughout the year, each one the exact size, color and shape of every other. And these don't come in little green plastic prisons. They are all sizes and shapes and are scooped from a big mound into a plastic bag. Then the bag is carefully weighed; too much, you loose one or two. Too light, a few more go into the bag. Then the bag is twirlled around itself, the knot tied at the neck, and you have a little bit of heaven. These berries are grown in the state of Guanajuato, in Salamanca and Irapuato. Their abundance and flavors are due to the diligent research and testing of, where else? UC Davis and its Vegetable Crops, Extension and Postharvest Physiology programs. All of this for 8 pesos (about 75¢) for half a kilo. I remember buying berries this way many years ago when I was in Paris during a cold, wet winter. I happened on a street market and there they were, a big mound of beautiful berries from the Cote d'Ivorie.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bougainvillea everywhere

This is the time when all the bougainvillea bursts into full bloom, not that it doesn't bloom year round in some places, but here at the beach, this it the time. In our front patio we have this lovely yellow plant. It shares wall and vining space with a red one and a more salmon color. But the yellow is quite rare. I didn 't plant this; it was here when we bought the house and has continued to bloom beautifully every spring.

In the back garden, against the wall, are these other two colors; red and fuchsia. There is also melon-pink one I planted last year but it did not "summer over" very well and now has no blossoms. Perhaps it will revive itself after a big dose of Miracle Gro. Likewise the Surprisa is not looking too vigorous. It has one long, thick stalk that is loaded with white flowers. That has found its way through the decorative brick on top of the wall and is hanging out over the sidewalk for passers-by to admire. Inside? Nada. My plumbago is not looking too hot these days, either, but I trimmed it up yesterday and we'll see if it can recover a bit before we go.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

the virgin of guadalupe gets busted

For twelve days in December Mexico celebrates the miracle of The Virgin of Guadalupe. Shrines are set up all over town. Five times a day rockets and bomb-lets are set off, beginning at 5 AM. This goes on from December 1st to the 12th. The celebration is capped by a big fireworks display in the center of town. Here is my favorite, the Virgin behind bars, taken in 2005.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Breakfast at Yuyo's

Three friends and I went off to El Paraiso, the next little squalid beach town down the road, for a delicious breakfast at Yuyo's: huevos rancheros, jugo de naranja, tortillas y frijoles. That should hold me until dinner! This is the view from our table, seaside. The beach front in El Paraiso is lined with palm-roofed restaurants, each a bit more dicey than the last. But we have never been sick after eating in any of them, so I just figure my system recognizes what's coming and doesn't get all in a dither. The fish is also very good, and the shrimp are excellent. The beach there is better than the one in Cuyutlán; no riptide, a gentler surf, more firmly packed sand that's easy for walking. And while we watched, one of the local fishing boats rode ashore on a gentle wave. We used to have quite a bit of fishing in our town but for some reason the industry died. We know the water is healthy, or at least the brown pelicans and gulls think so. They troll up and down all day long, diving every so often for a morsel.

While I was off having a fine time the Patient was making pie crust so I can make a quiche for dinner. He is the resident pastry chef on this one. He uses a fool-proof recipe he got from either his mother or his sister, can't remember which. And it works every time. So tonight is shrimp quiche. I have had more cholesterol in the last two days than I have had in six months. Bring on the statins!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's Tatemado on the menu

Tonight I am fixing this luscious Mexican dish made with beef strips, a rich and spicy sauce, fresh ginger and lime juice. It is served in warm tortillas. ¡Dios mio, está riquísimo! Not only delicious but also runny and messy. Beef in Mexico is very tough so it must cook for several hours to be edible. That merely means that the house smells divine for a long, long time.

This morning Fernando called out that the Primavera parade was passing by. I grabbed my camera to take pictures of the little children dressed in costumes representing Spring; butterflies, flowers, worms, bumble bees, etc. What happened? Dead battery. Next year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Progress - 1: Charm - O

We went to Tecoman this morning so the Patient could get his hair cut and so I could pop into our favorite bakery and buy a piece of tres leches cake for him and a slice of flan for myself. A diabetic's dream dessert. Last I was in that town there was a charming shaded arcade between some low-rise commercial outlets and the big indoor market. I don't know what the city fathers envisioned when they ripped out the trees, paved over the tiled pedestrian lanes, set up cement "bunkers" down the middle for little tiendas selling jewelry, cell phones, CDs, etc., but it had nothing to do with making a pleasant, cool walkway for strolling. There used to be vendors selling aguas frescas, sandals, hammocks, flowers, ice cream. Now that's all gone and commerce is taking place in a setting that's so sterile all you want to do is hurry through, not stopping for anything.

We bought the paint for the exterior of the house for the repairs Fernando has finished. Well, it's not the right color. It's too pale, not "peachy" enough. Tomorrow I take it all back and ask them to remix it a shade darker. Then we'll try a little of that. The house is going to be several different shades by the time we're finished!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The US Constitution

I don't spend a great deal of time mulling over those most elegant of documents, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I would guess that, like most Americans I take those radical documents for granted. However, today is the birthday of Benito Juarez and it gave me pause. This worthy served five terms as the President of Mexico. Thinking about our current situation in the US, I can only fall on my knees and thank the powers that were for the wisdom and foresight of the 22nd amendment.

Monday, March 19, 2007

La Primavera

At this time of the year the Primavera trees all throughout this area burst in to brilliant yellow blooms. You can see them for miles around. I saw this one on a little side street as I was leaving the tiangues this morning. Their glory is short lived -- two weeks -- then they leaf out and it's over for another year. They are actually not very pretty trees; branches every which way, leaves skimpy. But this is their moment! The trees with pink blossoms come first; they were almost done when we got here two weeks ago.

The Patient is a bit better again today. He had a couple of long naps to regain his pep, and is able to swallow pretty well. Even though today is a holiday it has been quiet. Some daytrippers at the beach but they have all headed back where they came from and the town is once again ours.

Stuffed poblana peppers, roasted potatoes and cantaloup, along with a glass of some Mexican red, will come from la cocina for our evening's enjoyment.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sunshine in a glass

This is the glory of the orange that greeted me this morning. It was every bit as tasty and sweet as it looks.

The Patient was better today. His throat was not as constricted and he had much more energy. He took it slow and easy and got through the day without collapsing for a long nap or nodding off while we were visiting with Jack. He ate well; tacito and beer followed by a big dish of bread pudding. That's my boy!

Just as I was putting dinner on the table (it's Sunday so it's tacitos from the goodie wagon in the jardin), we heard the familiar hissssss of the mosquito abatement truck rolling by. Yes, we do have mosquitoes in Cuyutlán, but they are at their busiest in November, December and January. Here it is, the middle of March, there is not a pesky pest in sight or sound, and the spray wagon is trolling up and down pumping it's poison in the evening air. The only explanation is that some bureaucrat in the neighboring town decided that since hordes will be descending on our little town over the Easter holiday -- two weeks of more than 5,000 people arriving, camping out, milling around, bringing their cars and their boom boxes; it's a nightmare -- the municipality best be sure visitors don't leave with dengue fever. So while we enjoyed a delicious dinner, listening to beautiful music, death was in the air.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Faustian Bargain

We listened to Faust from the Met this morning/afternoon. Here in this little backwater town we can pulll in via computer the most gorgeous music ever heard. Ruth Ann Swenson broke our hearts as the ill-fated Marguerite.

The Patient has had a couple of not-so-good days. He has been very tired, unable to eat much, generally lethargic. And, I would venture, just a tad depressed. He has spent much time napping (good) and playing chess on the internet (also good). He wanted me to make a "soupy" bread pudding, which I did, and he ate about half of it (very good). But his energy is at a very low ebb. The doc told us this would happen; some days will be much better, some not so hot.

Tomorrow is another day and there is much to look forward to. Like a brilliant sunrise and fresh squeezed orange juice. This is a treat reserved for Sunday morning (although I don't know why; juice oranges are about 20¢ a lb. so we could have it three times a day!). But sweet, sweet orange juice makes Sunday a day to worship the goodness of the Earth.

Friday dinner in a Catholic country

As I noted last week, this being Lent the fish market is always crowed on Friday. In our village, Friday also means chilies rellenos in the kitchen of one of the local restaurants. Probably in all, for that matter. You can stand at the big open window of the hotel's kitchen and watch them being prepared, then order a couple to bring home for comida or cena. In thinking about this I decided that I get enough cholesterol as it is without shoving down yet more cheese-stuffed peppers. I changed the menu.

First you buy a whole fish. Then you flip to Huachanango a la Veracruzana in the tattered and spotted The Cuisines of Mexico by the doyenne of Mexican cooking, Diana Kennedy. Since we can get almost any size whole Snapper we want this is great for just los dos and can be quite spectacular for six. I have a couple of barra (clay) fish platters, depending on the size of the beast, that I use on the top of the stove and put directly in the oven. I love all my Mexican barra cookware; easy to clean, decorative, wonderful to cook in. Hang the lead content!

We drove over to Armeria to check out the local paint store. We are trying to match the current house color for the areas Fernando has patched and will paint. Unfortunately we painted the house about three years ago so you can imagine the fading in the hot tropical sun. I guess we'll just have to paint the whole house again next year. Meanwhile, we'll make do with what we can find. The garage and front doors need repainting, too. I am looking for a teal green/blue, like these. (I don't know why these are so fuzzy; I'll try again after I get my PhD in "Camera Use.") The house color is something called "Salmon" and it looks quite good with the teal. Not very Mexican; more French countryside. It's good to be eclectic. The Patient and I compared these colors, decided either of the top two would be OK. He's color blind by birth (can't tell the difference between the red, yellow and green on stop lights; does it by position, not color. Yikes!) I am color blind due to years of laser treatment that zapped my cones. We are not a good pair to make these decisions.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How do you know your're in Mexico?

1. The government owns all the petroleum production, and admits it. PEMEX is the ONLY gasoline purveyor in the entire country. No driving around looking for the best price. Nationwide it's all the same. And it's full service all the way which means you stay in your car and let them deal with the pelting rain or scorching heat. And they clean the windows . AND most of the pump jockeys are women.

2. The government owns all the telecommunications outlets and admits it. TELMEX is the ONLY service available. That's for phone, internet, cell phone, FAX service. Makes it real easy to read our bill. And it's cheap, too. $18 US per month for all service except international calls which are about 50¢ each.

3. The government IS the provider of electrical power. No silliness of voting by a community on which provider it should have (as we did in Davis in November; PG&E or SMUD [Sacramento Municipal Utilities Districe]. PG&E won , but I was never convinced it would make a whit of difference). Our electric bill which comes every two months is about $10 US. Household gas is purchased by the tank-ful; it is about $20 for 6 to 8 weeks, depending on usage. It is provided by a company called GAZ. You might think this is free enterprise at work. In a way it is. Global is the other company, but they do not come around on a truck and replace your tanks. You have to dismantle the tanks, toss them in the back of your car or truck and drive around looking for a Global station so you can fill up your tanks. For ease, it's GAZ.

4. Everybody drinks bottled water. Ice cubes are made with tap water.

5 Beer is 55¢ a bottle. Tomatoes are 40¢ a kilo (20¢ a pound). Avocados are about $20 pesos a kilo, or about 20¢ each. Tortillas from the neighborhood tortarilla -- which we had tonight to make fajitas -- are 8.5 pesos a kilo, or 35¢ a pound. There are about 40 tortillas in a pound. Of course, the government subsidizes corn, along with beans, sugar and rice, so the prices are pretty stable. Some agricultural prices have taken quite a jump; onions, potatoes, bananas, for example. Still, I can go to the tiangues and spend $30 pesos (about $2.90) for enough veggies and fruit for a week. The produce is abundant, cheap, good, varied.

6. They have a different word for everything. The best confusion: The regular gas here is called Magna. The first time I went to the gas station I asked for a fillup of, I though, Magna. What I actually said was, "Lleno con manga." That means, "Fill it with sleeves."

7. I will leave you with one of my favorites. We get garbage pick-up three times a week. Our property taxes go to support this civic service. Our own taxes, the ones we personally pay, would not support a US garbage pick-up ONCE a week for ONE week, much less what we get here. And you can put out anything, and I mean ANYTHING, you want to get rid of. Yesterday we went through the bodega and discarded all the old cans and plastic buckets of paint we could find. And where did they go, you ask? To the Hazardous Waste Disposal Unit? To the once-a-month household waste dump such as we have in Davis? Guess. I am not saying that I approve of this irreponsible practice, one that has led to real problems in the ecology of the local salt lagoons and to an enormous pollution problem. But si es. It's another way of life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Wednesday is Mexican Train Dominos night at the Siete Mares bar and restaurant. There were ten of us tonight, two tables of five. Six to 9 PM. All welcome. A good time was had by all. The Patient decided not to play tonight. Last night's party wore him out so he stayed home and ate leftovers for dinner. My dinner was guacamole and beer. The best.

Fernando was wielding the sledgehammer again today, knocking out a seating ledge on the third floor. It needs to be rebuilt. The flue for the stove opens underneath the bench upstairs, so broken cement and dust and other debris rained down over the stove, counters and floor for the morning. But by 6 PM when I left the house it was all cleaned up, the forms in place, ready to pour cement tomorrow. Coming right along.

Here's a picture of the new sling chair covers and two of the director's chair covers. You can see one of our fabulous pink plastic flamingoes peeking over the top of the sling chair. They are a stunning addition to our tropical paradise. The other chairs are put away, waiting for the third floor construction to finish so the table and chairs can be set up for our evening sunset enjoyment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An evening on the beach

Our friends the Nelsons had a beach dinner tonight. There were about 18 of us there, all gringos. This is the whole Norte contingent, minus two. Well, acutally minus one. One has moved up to a town outside of Mexico city. The Patient got an ovation when he arrived; everyone was happy to see him and he was very happy to see them. We had a lovely sunset, looked for yet another green flash, then sat down to a delicious dinner, potluck style. The Patient looked forward especially to dessert: Tres Leches Cake, a very moist and sweet concoction made with fresh, evaporated and condensed milk. He had a big slab and said it was delicious. The evening was warm, the breezes soft. It's good to be here.

Fernando began his repairs on the house today. He showed up at 8 AM, right on schedule, sledgehammer in tow, to knock out holes in the walls where cracks have appeared, to demolish a cement banquette and shelf on the third floor that have begun to fall away. By the end of the day he has the forms made for the new shelf, had the wall patched and the shelf poured. More tomorrow. We anticipate it will all take about two weeks. Then painting, and it will all be good as new.

There is nothing sweeter than climbing in bed between sheets that have been washed in Ariel, a floral scented detergent, and dried in the hot sun. White, crisp, fragrant. Buen sueños.

Monday, March 12, 2007

You can get anything you want . . .

Monday is tiangues day. Everyone heads to Armeria for the weekly street market. This is where I usually buy all my fruits and vegetables for the coming week, plus things like garlic, beans, shrimp, perhaps a chicken if they look good (cleaned but not dressed). There is a big new and used clothing section here, too, plus tools, plants (no oregano today), music CDs and DVDs (pirated and not always compatible with US-made machines), needlework supplies, and underwear. These colorful, perky little goodies are all laid out on tables for the admiration of the passing crowd. They appear to be all the same size and shape. Here is the chicken man who elegantly chops, slices, hacks and generally "orchestrates" his preparation of chickens. Chicken feet are in great demand for the gelatinous quality they provide for soups.

Those of us who love this weekly treat are concerned that the two big super mercados that have moved into Tecoman, La Bodega and Sorianas are going to kill this way of shopping. True, those who shop at the tiangues are usually folk who do not have cars and cannot get to the other markets. But the scarcity of fruit/veggie stalls (there are now about 6 where there used to be at least a dozen) does not bode well for this tradition. Perhaps they've all gone to Talpa to worship the Virgin and will be back next week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Emily

Our granddaughter, Emily Jordan, is 13 today. Here she is in all her volleyball-playing glory; blond hair flying, rosy cheeks, glorious long legs. She is in the 7th grade, and despite that, a charming, lively and delightful young lady. We sent her a pair of beautiful pearl earrings from that store that is home of the Little Blue Box. I spoke with her tonight and she was delighted. I told her I hoped it was the first of many she would receive throughout her lifetime. Also today, on her birthday, her brother Andrew took off to spend his Spring break, not in Ft. Lauderdale or Balboa Island, but in China and Taiwan. Last year he came to visit us here. I guess China and two age-mate traveling companions trumps Cuyutlán and grandparents. And so it goes . . .

Today the Patient and I tackled the garden. Our little fountain in the front garden was on the fritz so he took it apart and got it burbling again. I hacked down the Elephant Ear philodendron in hopes it would rejuvinate itself. I did laundry for the first time, eager to see how far from it's moorings the washing machine would dance, but it stayed pretty well put. It takes forever as we have no water pressure. All water is delivered by gravity; you pump it up to a holding tank on the roof (el tinaco) and it flows down into the kitchen or bathroom or laundry when you open the tap. Consequently it takes a l0000ng time for the washer to fill with water and we have the wimpiest shower imaginable. Our bathroom is on the second floor, the tinacoon the third so there's not much drop to work up a good shower force. The guest quarters are on the first floor; they have better luck. You have to remember to run the pump so you don't run out of water. And to shut the pump off so the tinaco doesn't overflow! The household water comes from the city; we pay an annual fee of about $70 for all the water we can possibly use. We also have a well, but that water is used mostly to irrigate the garden. If it should happen that the city water is either running slowly or not at all (and that happens) we can use a very long hose and pump water from the well up to the roof. It's a whole different way of life.

If it's Sunday it must be tacitos. On Sunday, and on other days during holiday celebrations and Easter, various vendors set up their stalls around the central square (el jardin) and sell mini-tacos. They open up about 6:30 PM, just as worshippers are coming out of evening Mass. For 30 ($2.85) pesos you can get a plato of five little soft-tortilla tacos piled with b-b-q'd beef or pork and shredded lettuce, with a side of boiled beans, fried onions and sliced radishes. You bring these beauties home, open a cold beer . . . no Sunday dinner at Mom's was ever as good.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hora de verano

I called Informacion this evening and was told that there is no daylight savings time beginning tomorrow. So for the time being we are only one hour ahead of California. But for the rest of you, don't forget to spring ahead.

This was a down day for the Patient. He was tired and spent much of the day sleeping or dragging around the house. And the weather was probably partly to blame. The sun never came out and it was a bit foggy. Not much got accomplished, although he did get a couple of our pink plastic flamingos set up in the garden. Tomorrow is going to be a garden blitz; cut down dead palm fronds, situate the rest of the flamingos, trim and prune the bouganvillas. Monday, at the tinagues street market I will check out what the plant vendor has and if it is something that we can get started before we go I may invest. I am going to buy a pot of oregano, though, and just clip it to use what I need. Then I will give the plant to Jack to put in his garden so we will have bushy oregano when we return. He has fabulous basil but for some reason his oregano has died. He is our supplier of good herbs.

It is very quiet this weekend. The day trippers may show up tomorrow to enjoy the beach, but otherwise there is nobody here. Lovely.

Friday, March 09, 2007

All cilantro all the time

Although the Patient is not able to eat much he soldiered through a dinner tonight of fish in salsa verde made with tomatillos, garlic, onion, and lots of cilantro. Almost any recipe you get from a Mexican cook has some cilantro in it, if only to use up the HUGE abundance of this lovely grass/herb. At the market, when you ask for it, the vendor gives you a big bunch and usually doesn't charge. Which brings me to our eating style here vs. at home. Although we have not gotten into the desayuno (breakfast at 10 am), comida (main meal at 2 PM), cena (supper at about 8 or 9 PM) routine, we do try to cook with all local ingredients, buy what's available at a particular time in a particular market, and keep things very simple. There may be some items we can't get here but for the most part in one place or another it is available. There are things we eat here but not at home; chayote, for example, or papaya, avocados (very rarely), cactus leaf (sort of like a green pepper only sweeter). I rarely drink beer at home but love it here. I don't drink rum or tequila at home. On the other hand, we do roast chickens, eat the wonderful local pork, and eat lots of fish which is plentiful, varied, and very cheap. Today I drove over to Armeria, about 5 miles away, to check out the Friday fish market. This being Lent, people were standing four deep in front of the fish counter waiting to buy the local catch. I got two nice pieces of Marlin for 20 pesos, about $1.90. That's what I cooked in the salsa verde. It was delicious.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Los Platos

Remember the plates? Here, by popular demand (well, one person) is a picture of my gorgeous new plates. We used them at dinner last night. It gives a festive air to the table. Even the Patient cleaned his plate; a little shrimp in garlic and wine, a little pasta, a little zucchini. And I do mean "a little." But he is eating more every day and that is a very good sign.

Yesterday we went to the bank in Tecoman (about 20 miles away) to pay our annual trust fees on the property. We had (a) the receipt from last year (the bank does not send a bill), (b) proper identification, (c) ownership papers, (d) a check made out to the bank for the amount we were told we owed. It took about an hour, one bank manager, four "tellers", two long distance phone calls before we were through. It soon became clear none of them had ever seen one of these trust deeds and had no idea what it was or what to do about it. Last year we bought the lot adjacent to our house, and this is the trust fee we wanted to pay. What, you might well ask, was the problem? It appears that the bank has not yet transferred our names to their records as the new owners. It's back on the phone this morning to the bank to try to get this straightened out. We still have to return and pay the trust for the house. But now they have all beed educated as to how to do this. Glad I could be of service to the staff.

Last evening was the weekly Mexican Domino get together, but I passed. Still fighting off travel fatigue, plus I wanted to eat dinner on my new plates. Next week.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tonight in Cuyutlán

Before anything else, let me say how happy the Patient is to be here. Although he is very thin, tires easily, coughs and spits and burbles and makes other odd and inappropriate noises, he will get better now that he is here, I am convinced. Even the trip down, which was exhausting for us both, was a big lift to his spirits. I intend to encourage him to rest as much as possible -- he's not always an easy patient -- and to make the most of the laid-back style of this seedy little Mexican beach town. I am deeply grateful that we can be here for awhile, with people we love in a place we love.

Breakfast in Cuyutlán: after starting the coffee, get out the mango. Lunch in Cuyutlán: before opening the first Indio of the day, get out the avocado. Dinner in Cuyutlán: after the salsa and chips and the first Margarita, who cares about dinner.

Below are the jottings of the few days it took to get here. There are other things to say about the trip so when it's slow on the action front in town I'll dredge up some other travel bits.

Thursday in Tucson

Another totally uneventful drive, from San Diego to Tucson, 423 miles of straight freeway. We left Vic and Tom’s house at 6 AM, got on to I-8, set the cruise control for 75 and woke up in Tucson 7 hours later. It is usually dark when we start this leg of the journey, in November. Now we could actually see what was whizzing by. There was snow in the Laguna Mountains in east San Diego. Then we dipped down into the Imperial Valley, the salad bowl of the nation. Acres of irrigated cropland; lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, and the rain birds busy in their circular route keeping everything nice and fresh. Into Arizona at Yuma where the “landscape” becomes a “moonscape” with rocks, scrub land, some cactus, but mainly just flat, dry acreage as far as the eye can see. Two years ago when we drove that route in May the desert was in full, glorious bloom. Everything looked so healthy. Last year it appeared the desert had undergone a terrible drought. I think the same will be true this year when we return. There were some blooming plants, and the sequaros didn’t look as shriveled as they had in May, but everything is very dry.

Friday to San Carlos

When you run the border gauntlet you go through two checkpoints. The first is right at the border. When you drive through there is a red/green light: if it turns red you stop and get everything you own fingered and commented on and (sometimes) confiscated; green light and you breeze right on through. Those who are traveling on into the heart of Mexico – or beyond the 30-mile limit – get checked again, issued a visa, a car permit, and have passports checked (but not stamped). Again there is the red/green light cliffhanger. This morning we blew right through the first checkpoint, green light flashing. At the second spot we got all of our business done in record time, about 30 minutes. And we got through a second green light! This trip is blest! It can be a real hassle, but we were in and out and headed for San Carlos without so much as a comment on the pink plastic flamingoes, the boxes of syringes, the flats of liquid supplement, or all the other odds and ends that we would have had to lay out like a giant garage sale. We got through Hermasillo easily, although the roads are still under construction; I think this is the third generation of workers on this stretch of road. We got to our favorite hotel (this was the view from our balcony/porch) by 1 PM, stripped off the warmies we had been wearing since leaving Davis, and pulled on shorts, T-shirts and sandals. I went to the bar and bought beer and we sat out on the balcony overlooking the garden and beach, and sighed with deep contentment and pleasure. The Patient was warm for the first time in many months.

Saturday to Culiacan

We were out of San Carlos and the Fiesta Real by 6 AM and on the road to Culiacan. We enjoyed the remnants of a big whipping cream dollop of a full moon and on the other side of the autopista a beautiful sunrise. We had read about a fine hotel in the town of Guamuchil, so we turned off Mex 15 to look for it. Couldn’t find it. We got back on the toll road and decided we’d go to Navolato instead. This time we couldn’t even find the town. (Mexican road signs are notoriously (a) misleading and (b) nonexistent.) So we bagged that plan and stayed instead on the outskirts of Culican in a very adequate, clean and cheap motel ($35 for two). It has a very acceptable restaurant right there so we just parked, unpacked, ate, and slept. This place has the kind of beds you frequently find in Mexican hotels and homes; a cement slab with a mattress on top. Bruisingly hard. I love them.

Sunday to Tepic

The Patient got up at 4:30 to take a shower before we hit the road. No hot water. So he was ready to roll. I, on the other hand, was certain there would be hot water so let the tap run for about 3 or 4 minutes and BINGO! And a fine shower it was. We were packed and out by 5:30 AM. This stretch is the worst part of the trip. The road between Mazatlan and Tepic is two lane, can be heavily crowded with long distance trucks, and is dangerous as all get out. Since it was Sunday the traffic was a little lighter, but there were still some hair-raising moments of passing long lines of trucks and only hoping nothing was going to suddenly appear coming the other direction. There is a new four-lane autopista going in parallel to the current road, but none of us will live long enough to drive it. We’ve been watching its construction for years. We arrived in Tepic at noon, checked in to our usual hotel, went out for lunch, had a wonderful siesta, ate dinner, and went to bed trusting that tomorrow would bring us safely to Cuyutlán.

Bienvenidos a Cuyutlán

We left Tepic at 6 AM and arrived here at 1 PM. It is warm, sunny, the sea is sparkling. The house had been readied for us, beds made, beer in the fridge, some basics on hand – pineapple, mango, avocado, salsa, garlic. It usually takes us two or three days to find everything, unpack and put things where they belong. This year Chouy and Fernando did it all for us. It’s as though we’ve been gone for the weekend instead of for 9 months. The minute it was spread around that we had arrived the phone started ringing (reminding me of when one or another daughter would blow into town, the phone would immediately start. How did they know?). The garden needs some immediate attention. Basically the bougainvillea in the front has not been tended to very closely and the elephant ear philodendron looks terminal. On the other hand, the palm tree in the living room needed a machete; we could hardly sit at the dinner table without getting a mouthful of frond. But we are getting settled, my WiFi is working perfectly (thank you, John Nelson!) and we are happy and thankful that we can be here for these next two months.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Estamos Aqui

We have arrived in Cuyutlan as of 1 PM today, Monday. But I am so tired after 6 days of driving that I am going to wait until tomorrow to fill you in on the trip. Yes, I did keep a journal every day but it is going to need some serious editing and I am simply too fagged out to deal with it. So instead, I leave you with our first Cuyutlan sunset of the season.